First Episode of The Office
At a time when television had run out of ideas beyond filming real but dull people doing dull things, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had the idea of making a comedy about such a microcosm. It worked brilliantly. Though initial response was at best luke-warm, the series has since been sold worldwide and been remade in various countries.
The programme, though a mockumentary, follows a tradition of the comedy of embarrassment exemplified by Fawlty Towers , but rather than exploiting extraordinary situations for comic effect, it wrings laughter from the humourless nature of most of its characters in the dead-end world that is the Slough branch of paper merchants Wernham Hogg. There are moments that have something of Harold Pinter about them. David Brent, for all his bravado and insensitivity, must know deep down that he is a lost soul. Perhaps the saddest funny aspect of the show is that anyone who has worked in a large office will recognize how closely drawn from life some of the parts are.
Like all successful situation comedies the standard of acting in the series was high, Martin Freeman outstanding as Tim, one of the few sympathetic characters; and Mackenzie Crook suitably unlikeable as Gareth. But it is Ricky Gervais as Brent who stays in the memory, his tour de force horror disco dance one of the best moments in British TV since... ever. And kudos to the makers for, like Fawlty Towers, pulling the plug before we all wanted them to.
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